“You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore”

Nr 82. My 10 lessons learned after 1,5 years worldtrip sailing

On 1. November 2022, we have been travelling exactly for 1,5 years! On the 1. Mai 2021 we left the Netherlands to go on a worldtrip with our catamaran. It has been a great adventure so far and also one with lots of life lessons learned. On 1. May 2022, after I year of sailing I posted 10 lessons learned. And now, 6 months later, I have 10 new lessons. Because some lessons have evolved more in depth and there are also new experiences.

1. Agenda no longer determined by appointments, but by nature

My agenda just to be determined by (work) appointments, 3 months in advance. I was all about planning. For instance in November I knew where I would be on the 2nd of February at 14.00h…. Now with my life at sea, I don’t know where I will be next week! It all depends on wind force, wind direction, current. So in short: nature. When we were in Denmark, we wanted to sail to Norway. But with northern wind for the next 2 weeks, that didn’t make any sense. You can’t sail against the wind. It was better to use that wind to sail to Sweden. The lovely thing about cruising is that planning usually turns out to be of little use. You have to respect nature, because your house is on the water and the Atlantic ocean is not to be trifled with.

2. Not all those who wander are lost

The one question I get a lot: don’t you miss home or the Netherlands? Of course I miss the people that I love: family and friends. But when you are travelling on a boat, you have to live in the moment, any second the wind or circumstances can change. And you have to get to know a country, it’s people, it’s rituals and way of living. So my home is where the anchor drops.

People also ask: don’t you feel displaced all the time? You don’t belong in any of these foreign villages and places, You are a constant by-stander, not a participant. This is true and this is also what I love about travelling! You are a part of people’s life for 1 day, or 2 days of a week. You have open and honest conversations with them, because there are no strings attached. You will leave again. No social obligations, you are free to go or to stay as long as you like on your own ship in a bay of harbor.

And I love the fact that I ‘take my home with me’ when I travel. We have gained a lot of new impressions in 1,5 year, our catamaran is our resting point. This is the place with my earl grey tea is, my favorite clothes, books and comfortable bed. But I have a different ‘garden’ each day. When I look outside our boat, the environment changes every hour. It’s interesting when you think about the concept of ‘being at home’. To me it’s not an address or where my Wi-Fi connects to my laptop automatically…To me it’s a feeling.

3. At sea I learned how little a person needs, not how much

When we left the Netherlands 1,5 year ago, we gave away so much of our possessions, like equipment, vases, paintings, etc. Or we sold stuff of threw it away. Still we took with us at least 30 moving boxes from our house to the catamaran. Things we thought we might still need on the boat. After 1,5 year we have unpacked 15 of these boxes. The other 15 boxes have not been opened yet….At sea you live from the wind and the sun. Those are the 2 circumstances you are the most happy with. Not expensive stuff, going shopping, buying things. Walking around in the harbor or on the beach and buying a € 2 sandwich with fish are the most happy moments.

4. You can never cross the ocean, until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore

During our sailing trip we have of course experienced several exciting moments. It’s a life of new experiences and new people and new countries all the time. It’s 1 big journey of personal development. It really shows your character. Can you deal with another change of plans? Can you deal with harbor masters that refuse to let you in the harbor? How about 2 weeks of wind in the ‘bad’ direction? Or no wind at all? The river you like to cross has dried up. The lock gates are stuck, so you have to wait for 2 days. Or the wind changes direction, your trip takes 3 more hours and you’ll arrive at night into this unknown harbor with no lights.

Sailing is a test of your good mood, flexibility, people skills, patience, courage and perseverance. You have to deal with all kinds of new situations, you have to trust your good judgement, each other and your ship.

5. Your senses work better

I have noticed living this life with my agenda being open, that you pay more attention to your surroundings. Now I have the time to walk around in nature, smell the sea and the trees ashore. Because you have a house that can sink, your ears get used to ‘special’ sounds. When you hear a sound that is not familiar, you have to check it. It could mean somethings is leaking, broken loose or is sanding and therefore a risk to the ship. Your senses get more developed and aware of what is happening around you.

6. Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors

We’ve learned a lot from exciting sailing moments. When things get difficult or rough. Or we found out we made a bad decision, for instance going into shallow water with too much waves. Or not being prepared for anchoring and then getting out of electricity during the day. All these moments we see as learning experiences. It’s good that we know them now in relatively safe circumstances. So that at times when it is actually dangerous, we have experience how to act and deal in that situation.

7. Follow and trust locals

You need the help of other people when you are sailing. Other sailors can give you lifesaving tips (‘Don’t go near that entrance, there are submerged rocks’ or ‘If you put your dinghy here, it will float away’). And locals will give you the best tips for harbors, restaurants or fun things to see and to do. Many people are brought up with the words: ‘Never trust a stranger’. We only meet strangers! And you develop a 6th sense for who you can trust and when you feel something’s not right. Of course you have to keep your common sense working all the time. But 99 out of 100 times a person invites us for dinner at their home, take us for a trip in their car or boat, these were spontaneous moments and sincere offers and often the best fun we have had!

8. Being a sailor is a lot like being an entrepreneur

At the 1 Nov 2019, I started my company Expert Trainers. So exactly 3 years ago, after working for 20 years for other companies I started my own business. And I love being an entrepreneur: the freedom of making your own choices, doing market research, plot a global route and then be flexible along the way, adapting to customers and situations. It’s so much like sailing: you do your research very well, plan a route, but you have to be flexible the whole time because the wind and waves can change. In sailing and doing business, you build up experience and confidence as you go. Self doubt is the anchor that keeps us from sailing.

9. Life is so much easier when you go with the flow

In the Netherlands, we are not used to differences in tides (only in the north of Holland, at the Wadden islands, you have to take the tides into account). But during our sailing time on the North Sea and Atlantic ocean, you have to know when the tides are changing and especially how strong the currents are. Because sailing against a current, means fighting the whole time and going slow. When you literally go with the flow, your (sailing) life gets so much easier. So you have to know the currents. This to me is a metaphor for: you have to know your talents in life, the things you like to do. And have the courage to let go of all the fighting to do or become what our people what you to do or become. Go with your own flow, follow the current and enjoy where it takes you. Because it’s more natural to you.

10. Respect for nature

The last 20 years of my life, I have been working a lot and maybe spent 1 hour a day outside for sports, walking or sitting in the garden. Now I am outside 10 hours a day. At least. I have noticed more about how nature works, how the different fish and birds live next to each other and have their own patterns. My respect for nature has grown so much. Especially on a boat you can feel so small: the water level can drop from 40 meters to 400 meters in 1 minute. The ocean is impressive and the forces of nature as well. We have learned about wind directions, currents, different cliffs, seabeds where you can anchor or better stay away. Many people are concerned with having online presence, getting noticed on Social Media. The seas have been here for millions of years, so much longer than we will exist. When we sail over the waters, once you look back, 10 seconds later there isn’t any trace let of you passing there or ever being there. The seas won’t not remember me, we are just a drop in the ocean.